A new study published in the journal Nature has found that Aspargine, an amino acid found in asparagus and many other foods was shown to aid in the spread of breast cancer to other organs of the body in mice.
Writing in the journal Nature, researchers describe how they reduced the ability of breast cancer to spread in the animals by blocking asparagine with a drug called L-asparaginase. Putting the animals on a low-asparagine diet worked too. Inspired by the results, the scientists examined records from human cancers and found that breast tumours that churned out the most asparagine were most likely to spread, leading patients to die sooner. The same was seen in cancers of the head, neck and kidney.
Asparagine appears to help cancer cells change into a form that easily spreads from the breast, through the bloodstream, to other organs where they grow into secondary tumours, Hannon said. While suppressing levels of asparagine reduced the spread of breast cancer around the body, it did nothing to prevent breast tumours forming in the first place.
If the findings hold in humans, breast cancer patients may be put on low asparagine diets while they have conventional treatments, such as chemotherapy, for the disease. But because asparagine is so ubiquitous in food, drugs that target the amino acid may be more effective. L-asparaginase breaks the amino acid down in the bloodstream, but more targeted drugs could block its production altogether.
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